Industry Profile: Ride Boot Designer Treu Hahnenberger
15 Sep, 2009
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Treu: I’m Treu Hahnenberger, I live in sunny Seattle, WA and design snowboard boots for ride snowboards. I ride bikes and make bags when I am not designing snowboard equipment or traveling. My power animal is the turtle frog, the best of all hybrid animals.
Shay: What is your job title?
Treu: I’m the Ride boot development engineer. It’s slightly cooler than it sounds!
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Treu: No never, they are super supportive of the lifestyle. When I was young they would take me out of school to got to Utah for a month in the winter to ski and snowboard. As I got older they made it easy for me to go riding whenever I needed to, even if I had school. That hasn’t changed with my job in the industry. They are always talking to people at the mountain and reporting back to me on how they like the product. It’s great.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Treu: My first set up was a long time ago. It was a Burton Elite 150 with the 1 piece bindings where the highbacks didn’t even fold down. Like everyone back then, I was in Sorel boots. That was definitely a learning experience.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Treu: I am riding a Ride Compact 53 with Alpha MVMt bindings and my pet invention boots the Strapper Keeper. It is a super fun set up that I ride pretty much everywhere.
Shay: What was your first job?
Treu: My first job was actually at a golf course running golf carts and lugging rich peoples clubs around. Then I worked at Milosport when I moved to Utah to ride and go to school.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Treu: I have been riding since 4th grade in 1988. 21 years of fun
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Treu: I used to get a lot more when I was in school in Utah but I still get an all right amount of days whether it is going up testing, going out to the industry on snow demos or just riding on the weekends. I get paid to do a good amount of riding, it’s pretty nice.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Treu: I can’t deny a good powder day but some of my favorite days riding now are sunny warm park days. Up in Washington we get so few sunny days that when you get a good sunny day and the park is good I am smiles from ear to ear.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Treu: Mostly my friends. When you are in an industry such as snowboarding you are surrounded by creativity whether it is kids with great fashion sense, 3-d designers pushing the envelope of form or 2-d artists coming up with new and interesting ways to express them selves. By taking everything around in I can formulate ideas for the design direction of my boots and integrate it into patterning, sole development and general design work.
Shay: What experience did you have or attributes before getting the job?
Treu: I went to school for mechanical engineering and product design. After that I got a job designing snowboard bindings for Ride. I took that experience to learn as much as I could from the people around me. Keeping my eyes open and learning from others was one of the best things I did when I got this new job. I learned Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop from our graphics department and 3-d modeling from the other designers which really helped me get and transition easily into boot design.
Shay: What is your role at Ride as the boot designer?
Treu: I am sort of the catch all. Basically any thing that goes on or in the boot I get my hands into. I do pattern and prototype design as well as design the structure to get the right flex of the boots. I work with our in-house graphics team to design the treatments and color direction for the boot and then take that and communicate that with the factory to get it done right on the samples. I work with ID firms to design new outsoles or other parts and then work with our vendors to get those into 3d and have the parts made. I also work on the costing of the product with the factory so we get the boot we want at the price we need it for.
Shay: How many times a year do you visit the factory?
Treu: I usually go 4-5 times a year for 2 weeks a trip. So I spend about two and a half months a year in China. It really gives me a good chance to work on my Mandarin.
Shay: Was it a hard switch from binding design to boot design?
Treu: It was actually not too bad of a switch from bindings to boots. Doing binding design for 4 years gave me almost all of the skills I needed. When I moved to boots I really only needed to learn a bit about boot construction, processes and material options. After learning that I was off and running. It was a huge help that I had a good group around me, in the boot team, that could teach me what I needed to learn so it was quick and painless.
Shay: What are the stages of the ground-up design of boots?
Treu: Design of any product starts with figuring out your consumers needs and the aesthetic direction for that consumer. I start with patterning the boot based on this information using more or less pattern overlays, materials and seams to get the proper look and protection for the rider. From there we can then start designing the flex based on the riding style. This is based on the internal structure materials and how they are laid up in the boot. We then sample the boot and make revisions to the flex and pattern. This is done throughout the development season until the boot is dialed and we make the graphic samples.
Shay: Ride uses a variety of lacing systems, how is working with each one to design boots?
Treu: Each lacing system has it’s own challenges. Each boot is designed from the ground up with the lacing system in mind. When approaching the pattern we look at overlay placement, flap design and eyestay shaping to make sure we get the most efficient closure and tightening of the boot.
Shay: Ride introduced the Bigfoot boot program this year, what went into building a boot for the bigger footed riders?
Treu: The Bigfoot program came out of a need we saw. We would always get e-mails from people with size 16, 17, 19 feet that wanted to ride but just couldn’t find the gear they needed. We started just making 1 off boots for individuals here and there and it just grew into it’s own category. The design really isn’t much different for these guys mainly just bigger. We do add some more support into these boots because generally when you have that size of foot you are also taller and have more leverage to flex the boot. It is mainly about allowing these guys to get out on the mountain if not for the first time, for the first time being comfortable.
Shay: Does your role involve the aesthetics (colors, prints, fabrics)?
Treu: All of the materials and graphics go through me to get onto each boot. I work very closely with our graphics team to get their brand inspiration and direction transferred onto each boot. I bring the graphics team different material options, graphic applications and color trends I see and they apply the direction they see for the boot. I then take this spec pack and I work with the factory to build the boot and select the appropriate materials.
Shay: Do you pick materials first or do you pick performance qualities and then materials?
Treu: Each boot has performance properties we are looking for. After looking at those we pick materials for the pattern, keeping in mind the specific needs of the boot. Whether it is weight, flex, extra durability and cost. All these factors are kept in mind when we are picking the materials.
Shay: How many testers take out each product?
Treu: When we are ordering our test product for the new year we really focus on what’s new. We have a fleet of about 30 test riders plus our pro team to choose from to get boots out to and collect feedback. If it is early prototype product we keep that in-house and send out select samples to the team and a much smaller select testing team.
Shay: What steps are taken to ensure durability and quality of Ride boots?
Treu: We do many samples to make sure we get the correct flex, ride and fit of the boots. After this is locked in we then build and send out these dialed designs to team riders and our test team to get feedback on how the boot performs out in the real world. We then take this information make revisions and resample boots and send them back out to test team for further testing to get it perfect.
Shay: What is your favorite product you have designed?
Treu: My favorite product I think is the Strapper Keeper boot I designed this year. This is mainly because I designed this boot for essentially myself. I wanted to design a boot where you had many options on how you laced the boot from a super quick entry and exit Velcro topped zonal speed lace to a traditionally laced snowboard boot. It is a really fun boot for sessioning the park or hitting a city street rail when you need to get in your boots fast. Also this year it was cool because we did a program with the art department of Seattle Public Schools. The graphics on the boot were done by a couple of art classes and we gave back to there art program for supplies and also brought some of the kids up to the mountain to learn to ride.
Shay: Prior to Ride, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Treu: I worked at Milosport in Utah for a few years during school. It is a great experience to work at a good shop and it really make you learn and care about the products that people are out there riding. That was a huge help when I was transitioning into designing bindings for Ride because I already had ideas and a direction I thought I should go to make snowboarding products better.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Treu: When I am in the office my average day consists of checking my e-mail when I arrive. This usually gives me a few new tasks to work on during the day on top of the other projects I have on my plate. I usually work on answering these questions through lunch. After lunch I usually go up to the graphics department to discuss new designs, graphics timelines or new samples I have received. Then I will work on new designs and make notes on the different pattern and graphic samples I have. This is as consistent as it ever is usually every day is completely different even in the office. Then you throw in the different travel I do to the factory, trade shows and demos and my work day really changes each and every day. This is super nice because it never gets stale and boring.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working at Ride?
Treu: There have been so many memorable experiences since I have been at Ride, it’s been great. A few that come to mind are going to Japan on shop tour/trending trip and getting drug around Shibuya by our Japanese crew drinking banana milk and partying with Kaz, Yoshida and my friend Kotaro. Our Banff sales meeting was also super fun. Staying in a castle of a hotel, riding at sunshine and curling with the whole ride crew was amazing. If you haven’t been curling with Canadians you’re missing out on plenty of beer and bruises from hitting the ice. Getting to go test product on bluebird Alpental powder days also makes it’s impression. Getting to ride different boards bindings and boots with the designers and halfway through a run be able to look over and talk about what you like and don’t about the prototype you are riding is awesome. When you’re doing it in 2 feet of powder it makes me glad to be in the snowboard industry.
Shay: How is working for Ride (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Treu: Working for ride is fun. The work environment is super relaxed. The work schedule is relaxed, can wear you standard street kit and if you need to go snowboarding, you go. It is also nice to work in an environment where some of the brightest design talent in Seattle is housed.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Treu: The travel to different places in the world to do business is the best perk of my job. I’d also say this is the hardest part of the job as well. While working at traveling and snowboarding across Canada, going to China and testing bindings and boots in what I think was the worlds smallest and iciest indoor ski hill and traveling across the US to different events to talk product and snowboard. It is really fun to get to experience different places in the world for work
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Treu: The time away from my home life. Designing product and working with the manufacturers you travel a lot. Whether it is going to the factory or traveling to meetings in different areas and different trade shows or sales events. There is a lot of time on the road, but that said there is a lot worse things you could be doing and it is all fun experiences that I wouldn’t get otherwise.
Shay: Do you think boots will be radically different in 10 years?
Treu: I think there are so many new technologies in manufacturing coming together now and it gets faster everyday I think it is inevitable that things will change. It’s amazing. It will be interesting how everyone takes these new technologies and applies them to their boot, binding and board construction.
Shay: Since you started in the snowboard industry, what’s been the biggest change?
Treu: There are 2 main things that I have seen the snowboarding has gotten much bigger and better. People are hitting bigger jumps consistently, bigger rails bigger lines in the back country. This has translated into the need for more precisely and thoughtfully designed products. The second is the cost of making products. During my time designing at Ride I have seen the costs of building products increase drastically due to the economy, oil and world economic factors. This has also made us think more about how we are designing products, the materials we are using and the applications we can put on them.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Treu: The spring/summer is the busiest time of the year for me. This is when we are doing all of the design work, working on patterns and making color and test samples. This is also when the majority of my factory travel happens. Other times of the year there is still plenty of work and travel but there is not nearly as much brand new design going through the pipeline to manage.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Treu: Education is great but there is no replacement for experience. Being educated as an engineer I learned to think in a certain way and approach a problem from many angles. The experience you gain working with products, whatever they are, opens up a whole new world of solutions to different design problems because you understand how they work, how they are made or how they will effect the other materials you are using. The more experience the easier it is to think of new ways to use a material or a new process that could make the product better.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to become a boot designer?
Treu: First I would say go to school for something like engineering or industrial design. This will give you the background you will need to work in all the aspects of the design process. Working in the industry in one way or another really helps. Also, working at a snowboard shop or for a local snowboard rep will give you connections that really help get your foot in the door. Last work on your sketching and with programs like Adobe Illustrator so you can make good realistic looking designs that portray the design aesthetic you are trying to get across. This is definitely my weakest link.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Treu: Just want to say thanks for the opportunity for the interview. And thanks to all the people that have helped me move forward into the place I am today. Hebbel, Ming, Cal, Benny, Bowes and the rest of the Utah crew. My crew in Seattle. Pete, Joe, Fank, Styk, T.F., T.D. and all the other family and friends.